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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Game Review - Dynasty Warriors DS:Fighter's Battle

Dynasty Warriors fail to fully conquer the DS.

EA’s and Square Enix’s love to milk their Need for Speed and Final Fantasy franchises respectively extend beyond the mountains, and so does Koei’s desire to milk its Dynasty Warriors line of games. The latest iteration of Dynasty Warriors has landed on the DS. While I am aware of critics slamming each Dynasty Warriors game for being far too similar, I have to admit that this is my first time playing a Dynasty Warriors game, but after diving into Koei’s franchise, I hold with me, a mixed bag of reactions.

For the uninitiated, Dynasty Warriors games usually throw you into the heat of a battle with endless hordes of enemies waiting to taste your blood, much like Xbox 360 game Ninety-Nine Nights (N3). You will need to dispose of the threat by using some fancy attacks, the occasional combos and of course, magic spells. The DS game does not deviate too much from this typical Dynasty Warriors structure, a fact that Dynasty Warriors fans will relish in. It is not all mindless hack-and-slash, though. As the other gameplay elements will prove, a little bit of strategy may be the deciding factor in your victory as well. What this translates into is that the game has 3 characters for you to pick, each with their personal strengths and weaknesses. After selecting your character, you will notice that there are numerous regions waiting to be conquered. Each region will be dominated by a number of camps, including yours and those of your opponent. What makes the game interesting is the fact that there is a pre-defined path or paths that you can take to travel from one camp to the other. For you to be able to conquer all the camps in a particular region faster than your opponent, there is a need for you to be able to choose the best path(s) to take. Strategy is involved here, and if you are unfortunate enough to have your opponent conquering areas at a quicker pace than you, you may yet have to fall back and slow down your opponent’s progress. To add to the depth of the game, Koei has woven a card-collecting element into the gameplay. Each card contains a certain general, whom you need to protect your camps (one general can only protect one camp). As usual, each card has its special abilities like confusion and ice wave, which freezes your opponent briefly, to name a few. Again, strategy is involved. This card-collecting element is also designed in such a way that you must play through the game in repeated times in order to be able to collect all the cards, but it is probable that you would only play through the game twice. Why would I say that? Because the game introduces more than just strategy … …

Yes, it has strategy, but on a negative side, it has repetition as well. One play-through will take you less than the time you took to watch Transformers the movie. Okay, the game will only last you 2 hours, to be exact. This is a terribly short duration, if you ask me. But there is a more pressing flaw at hand. Throughout the 2 hours, you will be doing the same thing over and over again (hack and slash countless waves of soldiers) and even the strategy applied will be repeated. Despite the involvement of strategy, the game has just relegated itself into a mind-numbing experience. Excluding the cards, no other bonus contents will be unlocked after completing the game, giving you no real motivation to play through the game more than twice. The game’s saving grace comes in the form of the variety of moves and magic spells.

On a sidenote, I find the game sound effects to be appropriate, but that does not mean that they are impressive – they are not. The graphics will not win any awards, but they are acceptable, nonetheless. However, animations are considerably limited. In fact, each character has only a few simple ones and that is it. As far as the A.I. is concerned, it is not very intelligent either. Skip Easy mode because the Normal level is already very simple (my 2 play-throughs were done on Normal level). In fact, you would be doing yourself a disfavor by playing the game on Easy level.

Final Comments
Dynasty Warriors DS: Fighter’s Battle mixes a little bit of strategy via its game structure and card-collecting element into an otherwise repetitive experience. The game is also severely short, with its duration standing at the 2 hour mark. Replay the game repeatedly if you want to collect all the cards, but perhaps the more suitable thing to do after defeating the game more than twice is to sell it away or put it aside – there is nothing more to play for. Sound effects are appropriate, but not impressive. Graphics are acceptable, but animations fare worse than it – truly limited. The A.I. is sub-par. Enjoyment of the game may depend on your preferences. Since I have never experienced any hack-and-slash games prior to this, Dynasty Warriors DS is indeed a little enjoyable to me, but not too much. Fans of Dynasty Warriors may want to get this game, but for others, I recommend you to borrow or rent it instead. The game is average at best.


Good points:
- A little bit of strategy involved
- Great variety of moves (experiment with the buttons more) and magic spells
- Sound effects are appropriate

Bad points:
- Repetitive gameplay
- 2 hours playtime
- No bonus content to unlock
- Acceptable graphics
- Limited animations
- Sub-par A.I.


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